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What you need to become a chef instead of a culinary degree

04:02 Lokesh kumar 0 Comments

In a recent episode of Master Chef US, amateur chef, 19-year old fast food server Gabriel Lewis was given a once in a lifetime offer. After what seemed like a loss after being voted out of the show, Chef Gordon Ramsey offered Lewis a chance to attend culinary school – at Ramsey’s expense! And while this is an amazing offer that no young and hungry amateur chef can refuse, not all of us are lucky enough to have a culinary guardian angel to set us up with a fancy degree. While earning your culinary degree can certainly open doors for you in the industry, truth be told, it is not essential to be a culinary school graduate to become a professional chef. A degree is not the be all and end all of your chef career, but there are other must-have traits you will need to possess to succeed in this often cutthroat and stressful industry.

Energy and confidence

Not only is physical and emotional energy critical in this industry, so is confidence in yourself. Working in a professional kitchen can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially in establishments that are more popular and being of strong body and mind is key. You don’t have to be the fittest person in the world, but you have to be able to stay on your feet all day and move quickly as pace is everything in a kitchen. Typically, a normal shift is between 10 – 17 hours compared to the standard 8-hour days of most industries. Also, confidence is important as the kitchen can be a scary place, and to be able to keep up with the pressure, you should be confident in your abilities and definitely confident in yourself.

Strong work ethic

Since the public is consuming your work, you have to have integrity and a strong work ethic to produce the highest quality meals.  You cannot have bad days as it will be reflected in your food, and unless you find a way to balance your emotions, you will not be successful in the kitchen. Professional chefs must always work towards perfection and never slack, which can be difficult if you are not passionate.


Which brings me to the next point – Passion. No professional chef has gotten to the top without passion for food. Yes, we all love to eat food, but a true chef’s passion lies with what can be done with ingredients and flavours to create the gastronomic sensations. A passion for creativity and growth is important as the minute you stagnate; things could go pear-shaped in the kitchen.

Practice makes perfect

While the saying may seem overused and meaningless these days, no truer words have ever been spoken. The more you practice, the better you become, that is a fact. Cooking a few dishes for your family is not going to cut it in the real world of a professional kitchen. If you don’t have a degree, what you need is experience, and this can only be achieved through practice.

A strong palate

Being able to recognize flavours simply by the way they taste is always valued in the kitchen. Chefs should be able to do more than simply follow recipes but should have a natural flair for flavours and tastes. If you are strong in this department, develop that skill and play it up in the kitchen to your advantage.

Some knife skills

Every chef should understand the importance of having adequate knife skills. Aside from the safety issue of working with sharp knives, good knife skills make the entire cooking process more efficient. Prepping meals take up the bulk of the time, from cutting vegetables to trimming meat and everything in between. If you have good knife skills, this process becomes more streamlined and there will be no hold-ups in the kitchen. You can acquire a decent knife set from places like Chef Works Inc, which makes learning the art of cutting and slicing a more pleasant and easy experience.

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